Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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More new highways and gas guzzlers pave the way for oil wars
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   08/16/2002)

Look fast. They're paving paradise. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is bulldozing trees, carving up mountains and gouging new scars in the land. Call me a tree-hugger. Call me anti-progress. Call me an apologist for Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, but I deplore these projects that would four-lane Townsend, pave over the oldest part of Sevierville, slice open Blount County, destroy Hardin Valley, tear up South Knoxville, and bifurcate the UT-K campus.

We allow TDOT to launch these massive spending projects in a futile effort to keep ahead of the traffic, but the traffic always catches up, turning each so-called bypass into just one more crowded street that spreads the sprawl and makes us more dependent on cars and gasoline. Ashe is right. TDOT has become a feeding trough for road-builders. Politicians who accept their campaign contributions should be turned out of office.

Sure, it's super-duper fun to drive status-symbol SUVs over nice new highways, but by doing so we contribute to the death of neighborhoods, the haze on the Smoky Mountains, the death of songbirds, global warming and international terrorism.

Yes, you can get there from here...

Just keep building roads, and one day "the greenest state in the land of the free," to quote the old Davy Crockett theme song, will be neither green nor free.

Environmentalists say, "Think globally, act locally," for a reason. They know that some forms of local "progress" promote environmental decline everywhere. But that's not all. By helping turn America into one big snarl of urban sprawl, we're also propping up oil-rich tyrants and terrorists, and making it inevitable that somebody's sons and daughters will die in future wars to keep gasoline flowing. There is a connection between the SUV in your driveway and the road to Baghdad. Just follow the money.

Our president seems intent on spreading the war on terrorism to Iraq. He's been laying the groundwork for months, possibly years. It's easy to get caught up in a cheerleading mentality, but when the killing stops what are you left with? Dirtier air, more oil-dependency, fewer civil liberties and thousands of corpses.

That's why I'm against another war on Iraq, unless it's part of a broader, less violent campaign to support human rights and democracy throughout the Middle East. Don't get me wrong. I understand the provocation. Iraq apparently is building weapons of mass destruction. But then, so are we. So is our ally India, our ally Pakistan. So is China. So is North Korea. I'm not sure we want to set the precedent of invading sovereign nations for the sin of building weapons. Too many other governments around the world could seize on such pretexts to settle old scores and set the world spiraling downward into never-ending warfare with global cataclysm at the end.

Clinton was right to work towards international consensus on issues such as global warming, Middle Eastern peace and weapons treaties. The Bush go-it-alone approach is proving disastrous at home and abroad.

Some of us would have more confidence in this fast approaching Gulf War, the Sequel, had Bush the Elder handled the first Gulf War better. Then was the time to march on Baghdad. Then was the time to stand by the Kurds, who were promised liberation, but were left twisting in the wind after we withdrew. Then was the time to initiate new energy policies that would have demanded better gas mileage from carmakers. Then was the time to invest in new technologies. Then was the time to build a stable Afghanistan.

Let's face it. The Gulf War was little more than a power play by petrol-based president to keep the oil flowing. Does anyone really believe we fought the Gulf War to liberate Kuwait, a wealthy oligarchy intent on nothing but maintaining its own wealth and power?

If we really cared about freedom and democracy, we long ago would have demanded reforms from our so-called friend, Saudi Arabia. For years the Saudis have been bankrolling suicide bombers and establishing radical Muslim schools throughout the Arab world that turn babies into future terrorists and oppressors of women.

Yet we pretend they're our friends, ignoring the fact that the overwhelming majority of the 9-11 terrorists were Saudis. Sure, the Saudi government disowns them, but Saudi policies made them possible, perhaps inevitable, while we looked the other way. There is a reason for such selective blindness.

It's called oil dependency.

Go ahead and drive your fleet of SUVs and support the road-building lobby. Just don't wave your flag while doing so. It's insulting to thinking people.